Snippets - Supporting in a Natural Way.

Updated: Mar 14

Climbers and tall plants that tend to flop need a little extra support, and there is no better way than using natural materials to do the job. Plant supports are vital for stopping stems from snapping in heavy rains and gales, but they also carry the weight of fruit and flowers in high summer. In doing so they encourage upright growth, saving space and providing better air circulation to help ward off some pests and diseases, which in turn leads to healthier, stronger plants.

Our gardening techniques, I am so glad to say, have returned to more sustainable ways in recent years. Rather than using plastic or bamboo you can take advantage of pruning material from your garden or buy bundles of locally coppiced wood to create beautiful unique supports at a fraction of the cost.

Now is the perfect time to make these supports, when herbaceous borders are ready to be cut back (if you haven’t done so already), allowing plenty of space to get into the borders before new growth gets underway. This is also the time of year when wood is coppiced; the ancient woodland management practice involves regularly cutting fast growing species like willow and hazel to the ground to encourage rapid fresh growth. It is cut now, before coming into leaf, and it remains pliable for a few weeks and so is ideal for making structures.

Here are a couple of ways to help get you started making your supports:

Tall domes – great for annual climbers such as sweet peas and ipomea, or for peas and beans in the vegetable garden.

First of all think about the eventual height of the plants - you will need 4-6 stems of suitable length for each support. With an iron bar and a hammer, make 4-6 evenly spaced holes in a circle where you want your plants to be. Push a hazel stem into each hole, bend the tops of the sticks into the centre of the frame and twist them together. You might need a bit of natural twine to secure the stems, but work your way around the frame tying them all in. Hazel is naturally twiggy so there are plenty of stems to make a really good, secure support.

Shorter frames - to support plants or flowers such as Delphinium and Dahlias.

Use 3 straight sticks that are about three quarters the height of the fully grown plant. Make 3 holes around the plant (not too close so you don’t damage the roots) and then secure them together by sliding a wreath of Cornus, Wisteria, or Old Mans Beard Clematis over the sticks. These materials are great because they are flexible and so wind easily into a hoop, and they are also a perfect way of using up pruning material.

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